Politics and the national budget (Part II)

Why is the national budget inflexible? I mentioned earlier that the budget is allotted mainly for personnel services which eat up overwhelmingly more than half of the pie. This is also caused by massive recruitment of civil servants. In fact, comparing the number of civil servants from the time Aquino began in 1986 and in 1992 when she stepped down, the numbers almost doubled. And from then until today, there is a significant increase in the number of government employees, thus an increase in the length of the payroll and thus a large allocation for PS.

But that is not the sole reason. There is more. In a hypothetical situation, a mayor can either allocate P2 million for solid waste management or recruitment of more personnel in the city hall. The question: Which of the two options will the mayor choose? In the interest of genuine service, a mayor would of course take the money and put it in waste management. This is in anticipation of possible problems poor solid waste management may entail.

However, in the interest of re-election, the mayor may recruit more personnel in the city hall. More people on his side would mean more following and supporters, not only the personnel himself but also his family and relatives.

Why do we operate on a single-year budget? There is a big political implication if the single-year budgeting will be made multi-year. The constitution vested the power to enact appropriations to the legislative department upon the recommendation of the executive department. Also know as the “power of the purse,” the annual enactment of budget will give the legislators their share of political advancement.

In a single-year budget, congressmen and senators can have full control of who gets what, when and how. The annual appropriations committee hearings with executive department heads can be a bargaining tool, if not extortion, for parochial projects in order to get bigger allocation. The political advancement in single-year budgeting is that every legislator (in the administration) gets a project, thus beautifying the rather ransacked names of some corrupt congressmen. No wonder they were once labelled “tong”-gressman.

So what will happen if we implement a multi-year budget? Definitely, there will be a big political problem. Assuming that a multi-year budget will operate for five years and our electoral system commands changing of guards every three years, there will be an impending threat on the politicians come the next election. They will not be able to manipulate the appropriation to suit their political needs. And therefore, given this scenario, multi-year budgeting is less likely to be adopted for our country.

Again posing a hypothetical situation, Congressman X who happened to be a member of the appropriations committee is negotiating with the Department of Public Works and Highways for a piece of road, say two kilometres at least, in his district. If he will have the road constructed, that will be plus points to him next elections. On the part of DPWH, it is favourable because they will receive higher allocation. Win-win. And of course, there are roughly 250 congressmen out there and 24 senators all probably asking the same thing.

So they chose to adopt the single-year budget.

[to be continued…]

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Politics and the national budget (Part II)

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